Transforming industrial manipulators via kinesthetic guidance for automated inspection of complex geometries

Loukas, Charalampos and Vasilev, Momchil and Zimermann, Rastislav and Vithanage, Randika K. W. and Mohseni, Ehsan and MacLeod, Charles N. and Lines, David and Pierce, Stephen Gareth and Williams, Stewart and Ding, Jialuo and Burnham, Kenneth and Sibson, Jim and O'Hare, Tom and Grosser, Michael R. (2023) Transforming industrial manipulators via kinesthetic guidance for automated inspection of complex geometries. Sensors, 23 (7). 3757. ISSN 1424-8220 (

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The increased demand for cost-efficient manufacturing and metrology inspection solutions for complex-shaped components in High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) sectors, requires increased production throughput and precision. This drives the integration of automated robotic solutions. However, the current manipulators utilising traditional programming approaches demand specialised robotic programming knowledge and make it challenging to generate complex paths and adapt easily to unique specifications per component, resulting in an inflexible and cumbersome teaching process. Therefore, this body of work proposes a novel software system, to realize kinesthetic guidance for path planning in real-time intervals at 250 Hz utilizing an external off-the-shelf Force Torque (FT) sensor. The proposed work is demonstrated on a 500 mm2 near net shaped Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) complex component with embedded defects, by teaching the inspection path for defect detection with a standard industrial robotic manipulator in a collaborative fashion and adaptively generating the kinematics resulting for uniform coupling of ultrasound inspection. The utilized method proved superior performance and speed, accelerating the programming time over online and offline approaches by an estimate of 88% to 98%. The proposed work is a unique development, retrofitting current industrial manipulators into collaborative entities, securing human job resources and achieving flexible production.